The Roanoke County School Board unanimously passed a new, more restrictive library policy for adding new books at its Thursday night meeting.
The case comes after a book, ‘When Aidan Became a Brother,’ was removed from Herman L. Horn Elementary School last year amid a debate.
This book is about a transgender boy who wants to be a good sibling to his new sibling, and according to school system documents, the mention of gender identity in the book is what led to a parent’s complaint. , who eventually had the book withdrawn after a lengthy appeal process.
Some parents have come forward and spoken out against the policy, which will now require all librarians at their respective level to approve a book before it can be added to a collection.
Before librarians decide to agree on a book, two elementary school librarians must read and write a review for each book before it is added to the collection. It is necessary to read and write a review at the middle and high school levels.
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It is from these reviews that all librarians should unanimously approve the book before it is released for parents to review the title of the book for two weeks, where objections can be made.
Under the previous policy, librarians had the opportunity to expand their collection by using “professional and reputable selection aids, such as professional journals, basic collection tools, and conference presentations during the media selection to be verified,” according to the school system’s policy guide.
The foregoing procedure in Roanoke County Public Schools essentially mirrors what is stated in policies in surrounding school districts such as Montgomery County, City of Roanoke and Salem.
Concerns were raised during the public comment period at Thursday’s meeting. They understood the workload of librarians, the idea that politics was a form of censorship or how it alienated certain groups of students.
The board approved the policy without commenting on these issues.
Laura Bowman, a parent from the Windsor Hills district, told the school board that if there was a subject they did not want to see in the libraries, they should “have the courage to come right up and name it. , instead of ignoring the professionals” and “hiding behind the staff.
“Imagine a school board that brought such deep-rooted fear, prejudice, and bias into its policy-making, that it hurt the children it claimed to care about and was meant to serve” , she said. “I don’t have to imagine it. I look at him straight.
No Roanoke County librarian came out and spoke in favor of the policy during any part of the meeting, and it’s unclear if any were in attendance. No other members of the public spoke in favor of the policy at the meeting either.
Superintendent Ken Nicely said the idea of having librarians read all books before they were added to the collection was an idea that fell within the Roanoke County system.
“It’s just kind of a common sense approach. You know, before you put something on the shelves, someone should look at it. Well said. “It was our idea here in the neighborhood.”
He said he couldn’t remember the specific people who came up with the idea.
During the board comments portion of the meeting, after the vote, Windsor Hills District Board Member Cheryl Facciani said policy decisions such as the new media policy were why she and some of the other board members were elected last November.
“People voted for us because they know we think parents have a stake in their education,” she said. “They wanted us to go back to basics.”
Several board members said they were not the ones creating the policy, but rather the administration, although Facciani and Catawba District Representative Brent Hudson shared his support for the new policy, as did Vinton District Representative Tim Greenway.
Facciani also referenced the national outcry, largely by conservative political groups, over the past year over some of the books found in school libraries.
She said there was “pornography” found in books not only at the middle and high school level, but also at the elementary level, although she did not specify to Roanoke County or which books. she was referring.
Facciani declined to speak to the Roanoke Times after the meeting.
Board Chairman and Hollins District Representative David Linden initially agreed to speak to the Roanoke Times about the new policy, but declined after speaking with other members of the media in attendance.
Greenway also declined to be interviewed after the meeting, leaving a private outing before answering a question about whether he approved of the book, “When Aidan Became a Brother,” being pulled from a school in his district.
Greenway appointed one of three members of the citizens’ committee that ultimately decided the book should be transferred to the guidance office.
The school system has not released the name of the parent who filed the initial complaint that ultimately led to the book’s removal, citing federal FERPA laws,
RCPS initially wanted to keep committee members redacted in addition to the parent who filed the original complaint, but relented after being told the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council had said committee members’ names should not be withheld. .
The ACLU of Virginia also criticized the school system’s new policy on social media, saying it was “an absurd burden to place on school librarians and a censorship tactic.” This policy should fail.
Regarding the deletion of the book, Bowman also criticized this decision.
“It’s convenient to deny another person’s existence and life struggles and in return not have to feel their pain and care about them,” she said.